Camera Works

Denver's Month of Photography marches on at Gallery M, Mizel and Robischon.

Ilf and Markov-Grinberg did not consider themselves artists, but that didn't stop them from making art.

Discussions about the nature of fine-art photography are irrelevant to the three shows at Robischon -- FAR AFIELD, AWAY OUT OVER EVERYTHING and CONFIGURATION -- because each of the photographers represented intended to create fine art from the get-go. However, with a few exceptions, their work is really not so different from what Bourke-White, Mydans, Ilf and Markov-Grinberg were doing -- theoretically speaking, that is.

"Ministers' Meeting, Rome," by Carl Mydans, silver 
gelatin print.
"Ministers' Meeting, Rome," by Carl Mydans, silver gelatin print.
"Elements: Sky," by Gary Emrich, photo emulsion on 
"Elements: Sky," by Gary Emrich, photo emulsion on glass.


Filters of the Twentieth Century
Through January 31, Gallery M, 2830 East Third Avenue, 303-331-8400

Muscovites: Ilya Ilf and Mark Markov-Grinberg
Through November 4, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360
Through October 30, Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298- 7788

The first of the three exhibits is FAR AFIELD, which is a landscape show -- or, perhaps more accurately, a show about the culture's effect on the landscape. An international cast of artists from Europe and across the country has been assembled, so many of them will be new to Denver art audiences.

The first images are by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. The elegant photos are grandly scaled enlargements in beautifully done chromogenic prints. Burtynsky's topic is the ravaged landscape, and his works include a trio of shots of the Carrara marble quarries in Italy and one of a wrecked village that was destroyed as part of the Three Gorges Dam project in China. These photos have a monumental quality and an anti-heroic edge. The scenery dominates them, but the people doing the damage to it are the true subjects.

English photographer Richard Pare's digital inkjets also pick up the theme of nature under attack. Pare examines industrial sites in Marghera, Italy, and in Moscow. Adjacent to these are a dozen small chromogenic prints by Italian photographer Guido Guidi, who somehow manages to record beautiful shots of non-picturesque scenes in the backwaters of Italy. Interest in the sociological rather than the aesthetic makes these perfect companion pieces to those of Burtynsky and Pare.

FAR AFIELD subtly shifts gears as it continues on to the middle space with Ruth Thorne-Thomsen's lyrical and poetic images, which conjure up a romantic and remote past. Thorne-Thomsen lives on the East Coast and became famous for pioneering low-tech photography, such as the use of pinhole cameras. In the '80s and early '90s, she taught at the University of Colorado at Denver and sparked a scene that was made up almost exclusively of her students. Across from the Thorne-Thomsens are gelatin silver prints by her husband, Ray Metzker. These pristine natural scenes mark an enormous change in Metz-ker's signature urban style.

Displayed on a wall shelf between Thorne-Thomsen's and Metzker's images are a group of intriguing photo-based sculptures by Denver's Gary Emrich, the head of the photography department at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. In them, pictures are printed directly onto the lenses of wire-framed glasses. In "Elements: Sky," Emrich transferred images of storms that he took from television broadcasts, and in "Elements: Flame," the found broadcast images are of wildfires.

According to Jim Robischon, who owns the gallery with his wife, Jennifer Doran, FAR AFIELD was not originally intended to be so landscape-heavy; it just sort of happened. "We really meant the title to mean Œafield' in a number of different ways, and not only be about the landscape," he says. "But it's hard to get exactly what you want when you bring in so many guest artists." As things started arriving, submissions fell into two categories, landscapes and images of the figure. The answer was obvious: Divide the work into two shows. CONFIGURATION, the exhibit in the Viewing Room, was the answer.

The figure, like the landscape, is one of the old standbys in photography, which makes it difficult to do something that looks new. George Woodman, who used to live in Boulder and now divides his time between New York and Italy, and Toronto's Janieta Eyre pull it off through multiple exposures. For Eric Schwartz, it's highly toned computer-generated colors. Schwartz's "Faith I," a life-sized shot of a priest, dominates this show because of its iconic presence. Nearby are Emrich's group of paintbrushes with photo transfers of women taken from paintings by Titian.

Back toward the front, in a small side gallery, is Away Out Over Everything, a Mary Peck solo made up of panoramic photos of the unalloyed beauty of the Northwestern scenery. Taken with panoramic cameras, these gelatin silver prints have an elongated horizontality, which provides the perfect analogy for the landscape itself.

Taken together, the three Robischon shows include something like eighty photos. This may seem daunting, especially in light of all the other photo shows around town, but the length and depth of the medium is so vast, there's something to interest everyone. Well, except for those who've whined that Denver's inaugural Month of Photography has them "photo'd out." Then again, these are the same people who are ceaselessly battling attention deficit disorder.

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